Join with those who have never said: "Right, that's it. I'm going no further," because as sure as spring follows winter, nothing ever ends; after achieving your objective, you must start again, always using everything you have learned on the way. Join with those who sing, tell stories, take pleasure in life, and have joy in their eyes, because joy is contagious and can prevent others from becoming paralyzed by depression, loneliness and difficulties.~Paulo Coelho (From The Archer)
I'd driven a different route to avoid traffic. However, the side street that cut through downtown was still backed up with cars and I sat at a red light. I could see the building I used to work in and felt a pang of melancholy. I missed the work at times, the moments in the counseling room collaborating with patients who sought help for substance use disorders. I thought especially of one man who'd been assigned to me as a patient. I wondered how he was doing, as right before I retired, he'd moved on from the clinic, his life going well. I thought of the pain in his eyes when we'd first met, his traumatized heart filled with pain and suffering. Weighed down by unresolved grief. Lost to himself. Use of substances had been a way for him to ease the misery, but the effects of the substances were not working anymore and he wanted a way out. He'd bravely asked for help. We worked together for an extended time, and when we ended the counseling relationship, he'd made significant gains--he was no longer using substances to cope, was working a job he was good at. He'd developed a healthy support network. He was no longer lost.
The light turned green and as I drove away from the building, felt a sense of gladness that I'd been able to work there, the clinic a bower of strength and healing for so many. That night I dreamed.
In the dream, I saw the very patient I'd wondered about. He greeted me warmly, his smile an infinite ripple of joy. I smiled back at him, my enthusiasm to see him looking so well filling me with happiness. There were no words between us, but he lightly and briefly touched my shoulder as we parted ways. I awakened and immediately felt a sense of well-being. Yet I felt curious about his gesture of touching my shoulder. I prayed for insight. I sensed that God led me to think this way about the dream...The shoulder is symbolic of the parable in which Jesus leaves the 99 sheep to go search out the one who is lost. He places the sheep over His shoulder and carries the animal to safety. I wondered if perhaps the Lord was relaying to me that He enabled me to act as He would during that season in the counseling room with this admirable man. Perhaps I was able in some small way to embrace the man's lostness and carry him for a while until he reached safety.
I'd like to think that this is what the dream means. I thought about time too. All those sessions co-laboring together. Sometimes it seemed that nothing significant was occurring. There was crying and sadness. Sometimes return to use. Yet increment by increment there was change and healing--not only for him, but for me as well. It is no small privilege to watch a person find their answers. And then to be invited to walk with them. Allowed to be carried at times. I pray this man is well. That he is using everything he learned on the way and continues to grow and sing and tell stories and take pleasure in life. Joy in his eyes.